Hearing Tests: Types, Facts, & Diagnosis

Hearing test showing ear of young woman with sound waves simulation technology - isolated on white banner - black and white.

Hearing loss is challenging, if not impossible, to diagnose by yourself. For example, you can’t really put your ear up to a speaker and effectively calculate what you hear. That means that if you want to understand what’s going on with your hearing, you need to take a test.

Now, before you begin sweating or fidgeting anxiously, it’s important to mention that the majority of hearing tests are quite easy and require nothing more challenging than putting on a pair of fancy headphones.

Alright, tests aren’t everyone’s favorite thing to do. Whether you’re a high school student or middle-aged medical patient, tests are really just no fun. Taking some time to get to know these tests can help you feel more prepared and, therefore, more relaxed. A hearing test is probably the easiest test you’ll ever take!

How is a hearing test done?

Talking about making an appointment to get a hearing assessment is something that isn’t that uncommon. And we’ve likely used the phrase “hearing test” a couple of times. You might even be thinking, well, what are the two types of hearing tests?

Well, that’s a bit misleading. Because you might undergo a few different kinds of hearing tests, as it turns out. Each of them is designed to measure something different or provide you with a specific result. Here are a few of the hearing tests you’re likely to experience:

  • Pure-tone audiometry: This is the hearing test you’re probably most aware of. You listen for a tone on a pair of headphones. You just put up your right hand if you hear a tone in your right ear, and if you hear a tone in your left ear you raise your left hand. This will test your ability to hear a variety of wavelengths at a variety of volumes. And if you have more profound hearing loss in one ear, this test will also determine that.
  • Speech audiometry: Sometimes, you’re able to hear tones very well, but hearing speech remains something of a challenge. That’s because speech is generally more complex! This test also is comprised of a set of headphones in a quiet room. Instead of making you listen to tones, this test will be comprised of audible speech at various volumes to detect the lowest level you’re able to hear a word and still comprehend it.
  • Speech and Noise-in-Words Tests: Obviously, conversations in the real world happen in settings where other sounds are present. A speech and noise-in-words test will go through the same procedure as speech audiometry, but the test takes place in a noisy room instead of a quiet one. This mimics real-world situations to help determine how your hearing is working in those situations.
  • Bone conduction testing: This diagnostic is made to measure the function of your inner ear. A small sensor is placed next to your cochlea and another is put on your forehead. A small device then receives sounds. How efficiently sound vibrations move through the ear is tracked by this test. This test can often detect whether there is a blockage in your ear (ex: if you’re unable to hear, but your inner ear is working fine there could be some kind of obstruction blocking the sounds).
  • Tympanometry: Occasionally, we’ll want to test the general health of your eardrum. Tympanometry is a test that is utilized for this purpose. Air will be gently blown into your ear so that we can measure how much movement your eardrum has. If you have fluid behind your eardrum, or a hole in your eardrum, this is the test that will detect that.
  • Acoustic Reflex Measures: A tiny device measures the muscle response of your inner ear after delivering sound to it. It all occurs by reflex, which means that the movements of your muscles can reveal a lot about how well your middle ear is functioning.
  • Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR): An ABR test attempts to measure how well the brain and inner ear are responding to sound. To accomplish this test, a couple of electrodes are strategically placed on your skull. Don’t worry, though! This test is entirely painless. It’s one of the reasons why ABR testing is used on people from grandparents to newborns!
  • Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE) Testing: This diagnostic is made to track how well your cochlea and inner ear are functioning. This is accomplished by tracking sound that echo’s back to your middle ear from your inner ear. This can detect whether your cochlea is working or, in some cases, if your ear is blocked.

What do the results of hearing tests reveal?

It’s likely, you probably won’t take every single one of these hearing tests. Usually, your specific symptoms will determine which of these tests will be relevant.

When we do a hearing test, what are we looking for? A hearing test can sometimes uncover the cause of your hearing loss. The hearing test you get can, in other instances, simply help us eliminate other causes. Ultimately, we will get to the bottom of any hearing loss symptoms you are experiencing.

Generally, your hearing test will reveal:

  • How much your hearing loss has advanced and how serious it is.
  • The best strategy for managing your hearing loss: We will be more effectively able to treat your hearing loss once we’ve determined the cause.
  • Whether your hearing loss is in a particular frequency range.
  • Whether you are dealing with hearing loss or experiencing the symptoms related to hearing loss.

What is the difference between a hearing test and a hearing screening? It’s sort of like the difference between a quiz and a test. A screening is rather superficial. A test is a lot more in-depth and can provide usable data.

The sooner you take this test, the better

That’s why it’s essential to schedule a hearing test as soon as you notice symptoms. Don’t worry, this test won’t be very stressful, and you don’t have to study. Nor are hearing tests intrusive or generally painful. We will provide you with all of the information about what to do and not to do before your hearing test.

Which means hearing tests are pretty easy, all you need to do is schedule them.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.